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North-south axis Breakthrough in alpine tunnel route

Miners have broken through the Ceneri base tunnel in Ticino, an important step in building a better rail transit route through Switzerland. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

After eight years of hard work and one final blast, miners from the north end of the Ceneri tunnel in southern Switzerland have met miners from the south. For the 600 miners working on the project it was time to celebrate. 

The Ceneri base tunnel is part of NRLA, a government project to create faster north-south rail links across the Swiss Alps. The Ceneri is the second biggest tunnel project in Switzerland. The 57 kilometre-long Gotthard base tunnel is the biggest. The Gotthard will become the largest train tunnel in the world when it opens in 2016. 

The Ceneri will be an important link in the south for the Gotthard. It will connect the transit port town of Magadino with Lugano. It’s just 15 kilometres long, but should make freight travelling through the Alps a lot quicker. The current track goes over Monte Ceneri  and is too steep for heavy freight trains. 

For the moment though it’s still unclear whether the Ceneri can open as planned in 2019. A legal dispute has delayed the project and led to higher costs.